Erika and Benjamin Sifrit

Last updated

Erika Sifrit
Erika Elaine Grace

(1978-02-03) February 3, 1978 (age 45)
Criminal statusIncarcerated at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women
Benjamin Sifrit
(m. 1998;div. 2010)
Conviction(s) First degree murder
Second degree murder
Criminal penalty Life plus 20 years
DateMay 25, 2002
CountryUnited States
State(s) Maryland
KilledJoshua Ford
Martha "Geney" Crutchley
Date apprehended
May 31, 2002;20 years ago (2002-05-31)
Benjamin Sifrit
Benjamin Adam Sifrit

(1977-10-21) October 21, 1977 (age 45)
Other namesB. J. Sifrit
Criminal status Incarcerated
Erika Sifrit
(m. 1998;div. 2010)
Conviction(s) Second degree murder
First degree assault
Criminal penalty38 years imprisonment
DateMay 25, 2002
CountryUnited States
KilledMartha "Geney" Crutchley
Date apprehended
May 31, 2002;20 years ago (2002-05-31)
Imprisoned at Roxbury Correctional Institution

Erika Elaine Sifrit (née Grace; born February 3, 1978) and Benjamin Adam "BJ" Sifrit (born October 21, 1977) are an American couple convicted of murdering two tourists, Joshua Edward Ford and Martha Margene "Geney" Crutchley, in Ocean City, Maryland, in 2002. The case drew substantial media attention. In 2003, both Sifrits were convicted of the murders.


Benjamin Sifrit is currently serving 38 years at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Maryland, while Erika is serving a life sentence plus 20 years at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup. [1] [2] Married in 1998, the Sifrits divorced in 2010. [3]

Early lives

Erika Elaine Grace was born in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, to Charlotte Gail (Klotz) and Gerald Mitchell Grace. Benjamin Adam Sifrit was born in Estherville, Iowa, to Elizabeth Ann (Graves) and Craig Arthur Sifrit. Erika and Benjamin married in 1998, when they were both 20 years old. She was an honors student and basketball star at Mary Washington College. Benjamin completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training class 212 in 1997, but due to bad conduct discharge for repeatedly being absent without leave, insubordination, poor performance and wearing unauthorized insignia, had his Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) 5326 Combatant Swimmer (SEAL) revoked.

Shortly after marrying, the Sifrits moved near Erika's hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania. There, they opened and operated a scrapbook store. [4]


On May 25, 2002, the Sifrits, both 24 at the time, met another couple, Joshua Ford and Martha Crutchley, a vacationing couple from Fairfax, Virginia. After a night of partying together at the Seacrets nightclub in Ocean City, Maryland, the two couples went back to the Sifrits' condominium located in The Rainbow on 112th Street. According to records, the Sifrits claimed that Ford and Crutchley stole Erika's purse, and Benjamin pulled a gun on the couple. After retreating to the bathroom, Ford was fatally shot four times with Erika's gun. Crutchley was also killed; investigators believe that she was stabbed, but the official cause of death could not be determined from her remains. The bodies were then dismembered and disposed of in a grocery store dumpster in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The remains were transferred to a nearby landfill, where they were recovered by searchers nine days later. [4]

Arrests and trials

The Sifrits were arrested on May 31, 2002, when they were caught burglarizing a Hooters restaurant. When police searched Erika's purse, they uncovered the drivers' licenses of Ford and Crutchley, who at that point had been reported missing for days. Erika confessed to murdering the couple shortly after her apprehension, but claimed the idea was her husband's. [4]

Because of the heavy publicity of the case, the Sifrits' trials were moved out of Worcester County, Maryland. Benjamin's trial was held in Rockville, and Erika's was held in Frederick. [5] At Benjamin's 2003 trial, a 22-year-old woman named Melissa Seling testified that she was subjected to the same ritual that Joshua and Martha endured, although she was able to avoid being killed. [4] On April 9, 2003, Benjamin was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the death of Crutchley, and was acquitted of all charges in the death of Joshua Ford. [5] He was later sentenced to thirty-eight years in prison. [6] [7] Erika's trial started shortly afterwards, on June 3, 2003. [8] On June 11, she was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Ford and second-degree murder in the death of Crutchley, and was later sentenced to life imprisonment plus twenty years. [6] [7]


In March 2010, Benjamin Sifrit filed for divorce, which was granted in August 2010. [3]

Both Sifrits have filed numerous appeals, all of which have failed. Benjamin exhausted his last appeal in 2010. [9] Erika's appeal, citing ineffectiveness of counsel, [10] was denied in 2014. [11]

Benjamin Sifrit became eligible for parole in 2021. His first parole request was refused in April 2022. If he is not granted parole, he will be released from prison in 2030. [12] Erika Sifrit will be eligible for parole in 2024. [13]

The Sifrit case has been profiled on American Justice , Deadly Women , Forensic Files , Sins and Secrets , Snapped and True Crime Daily .

In July 2009, a book entitled Cruel Death, written by M. William Phelps, was released about the case. [14]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Allen Muhammad</span> American serial killer, co-perpetrator in the "DC Sniper Case" (1960–2009)

John Allen Muhammad was an American convicted murderer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He, along with his partner and accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, carried out the D.C. sniper attacks of October 2002, killing 10 people. Muhammad and Malvo were arrested in connection with the attacks on October 24, 2002, following tips from alert citizens. Although the actions of the two individuals were classified by the media as psychopathy attributable to serial killer characteristics, whether or not their psychopathy meets this classification or as a spree killer is debated by researchers.

Lee Boyd Malvo, also known as John Lee Malvo, is a convicted murderer who, along with John Allen Muhammad, committed a series of murders dubbed the D.C. sniper attacks over a three-week period in October 2002. Malvo was aged 17 during the span of the shootings. Currently, he is serving multiple life sentences at Red Onion State Prison in Virginia, a supermax prison. Muhammad was executed in 2009.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Capital punishment in Maryland</span>

Capital punishment was abolished via the legislative process on May 2, 2013, in the U.S. state of Maryland.

A thrill kill is premeditated or random murder that is motivated by the sheer excitement of the act. While there have been attempts to categorize multiple murders, such as identifying "thrill killing" as a type of "hedonistic mass killing", actual details of events frequently overlap category definitions making attempts at such distinctions problematic.

Thomas and Jackie Hawks were a couple from Prescott, Arizona, United States, who were murdered in 2004.

In England and Wales, life imprisonment is a sentence that lasts until the death of the prisoner, although in most cases the prisoner will be eligible for early release after a minimum term set by the judge. In exceptional cases a judge may impose a "whole life order", meaning that the offender is never considered for parole, although they may still be released on compassionate grounds at the discretion of the Home Secretary. Whole life orders are usually imposed for aggravated murder, and can only be imposed where the offender was at least 21 years old at the time of the offence being committed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Darren Mack</span> American murderer

Darren Roy Mack became the subject of an international manhunt in June 2006 after being charged with the stabbing death of his 39-year-old estranged wife, Charla Mack, in the garage of their Reno, Nevada home. Mack was also suspected of, and later charged with, the sniper shooting of Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, who was handling the couple’s acrimonious divorce. Charla Mack was murdered after 9:00 a.m. on June 12, 2006, and Judge Weller was shot around 11:05 a.m. the same day. Judge Weller spent time recovering, and returned to his courtroom on August 16.

The Wichita Massacre, also known as the Wichita Horror, was a week-long series of random brutal crimes perpetrated by brothers Reginald and Jonathan Carr in the city of Wichita, Kansas between December 8 and 15, 2000. Five people were killed, and two people, a man and a woman, were severely wounded. The brothers were arrested and convicted of multiple counts of murder, kidnapping, robbery, and rape. They were both sentenced to death in October 2002. Their vicious crimes created panic in the Wichita area resulting in an increase in the sales of guns, locks, and home security systems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom</span> 2007 carjacking, rape, and murder of a couple in Knoxville, Tennessee

Channon Gail Christian, aged 21, and Hugh Christopher Newsom Jr., aged 23, were from Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. They were kidnapped on the evening of January 6, 2007, when Christian's vehicle was carjacked. The couple were taken to a rental house. Both of them were raped, tortured, and murdered. Four males and one female were arrested, charged, and convicted in the case. In 2007, a grand jury indicted Letalvis Darnell Cobbins, Lemaricus Devall Davidson, George Geovonni Thomas, and Vanessa Lynn Coleman on counts of kidnapping, robbery, rape, and murder. Also in 2007, Eric DeWayne Boyd was indicted by a federal grand jury of being an accessory to a carjacking, resulting in serious bodily injury to another person, and misprision of a felony. In 2018, Boyd was indicted on state-level charges of kidnapping, robbery, rape, and murder.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Brennan Crutchley</span> American rapist and kidnapper

John Brennan Crutchley was an American convicted kidnapper, rapist, and suspected serial killer who was suspected of murdering up to 30 women, but was never tried for nor convicted of murder. He was called the "Vampire Rapist" because he drained the blood of his victim almost to the point of death while he repeatedly raped her.

Anthony Grandison is an American drug dealer and murderer who was formerly on death row in Maryland. He was sentenced to death for ordering the killing of a pair of witnesses in 1983. On December 31, 2014, his sentence was commuted to life without parole by outgoing governor Martin O'Malley who reprieved all four members of Maryland's death row.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Josh Phillips (murderer)</span> American murderer

Joshua Earl Patrick Phillips is an American who was convicted of murder as a child. In November 1998, when he was 14 years old, Phillips killed Maddie Clifton, his 8-year-old friend and neighbor. The following year, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Phillips stated that he killed Clifton to stop her from crying after she was accidentally struck with a baseball while they were playing, and that he feared punishment from his abusive father. Although elements of Phillips's story are disputed, officials who were involved in his prosecution have subsequently expressed contrition over the severity of his sentence. Phillips is eligible for re-sentencing in 2023.

China Arnold is an American woman who was convicted of murdering her 28-day old daughter, Paris, by cooking her in a microwave oven. She is currently serving a life sentence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Murder of Urban Höglin and Heidi Paakkonen</span> Murder of two Swedish tourists

Swedish tourists Sven Urban Höglin, aged 23, and his fiancée Heidi Birgitta Paakkonen, aged 21, disappeared while tramping on the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand in 1989. Police, residents, and military personnel conducted the largest land-based search undertaken in New Zealand, attempting to find the couple. In December 1990, David Wayne Tamihere was convicted of murdering Höglin and Paakkonen, and sentenced to life imprisonment based largely on the testimony of three prison inmates.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cheshire home invasion murders</span> 2007 triple-murder in Chesire, Connecticut

On July 23, 2007, Linda Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky invaded the residence of the Petit family in Cheshire, Connecticut. Though initially planning only to rob the house, she and Komisarjevsky murdered Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit. Their father Dr. William Petit escaped with severe injuries.

In February 2009, Heather Strong was kidnapped and murdered in Marion County, Florida. Emilia Lily Carr, a rival for the affections of a man Strong had dated, came under suspicion. Carr denied any guilt and alleged her statements were coerced. Carr was nevertheless found guilty in December 2010 and sentenced to death by lethal injection in February 2011. Carr was one of five women on death row in the state of Florida. On May 19, 2017, Emilia Carr was re-sentenced to life without parole. Joshua Fulgham was similarly convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death. At a separate trial, where he pled guilty, Joshua Fulgham received two consecutive sentences of life in prison for his involvement in Strong's murder.

The murder of Cassie Jo Stoddart took place in Bannock County, Idaho, United States, on September 22, 2006, when Stoddart, a student at Pocatello High School, was stabbed to death by classmates Brian Lee Draper and Torey Michael Adamcik. Both perpetrators received sentences of life imprisonment without parole on August 21, 2007.

This is a list of notable overturned convictions in Canada.

On May 14, 2015, three members of the Savopoulos family—Savvas, Amy, and their son Philip—as well as their housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, were killed at the Savopoulos home in Washington, D.C. The victims were held hostage for 19 hours, starting on May 13. Ten-year-old Philip was tortured in order to coerce $40,000 in cash from the family. The perpetrator(s) restrained them with duct tape before killing them, then set the house on fire. They all sustained blunt force trauma, and Philip was also stabbed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Murder of Ryan Poston</span> Murder of an American attorney

On October 12, 2012, Ryan Carter Poston, an American attorney from Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, was shot to death by his on-again off-again girlfriend Shayna Michelle Hubers. After a trial in the Campbell County circuit court, Hubers was convicted of murder on April 23, 2015. She was sentenced to 40 years in the Kentucky Department of Corrections on August 14, 2015, with parole eligibility after 34 years. On August 25, 2016, Hubers’s conviction was overturned on appeal when one of the jurors in her murder trial was revealed to be a convicted felon. Hubers was convicted of murder during her second trial on August 28, 2018. On October 18, 2018 she was sentenced to life imprisonment with parole eligibility after 20 years.


  1. "Maryland DOC Inmate Locator". Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
  2. "Maryland DOC Inmate Locator". Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
  3. 1 2 Augenstein, Neil (August 12, 2010). "Court officer changes mind, OKs Sifrit divorce". WTOP News . Archived from the original on October 12, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Hewitt, Bill (June 9, 2003). "Thrill Killers?". People . Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  5. 1 2 "Jury Reaches Verdict in Sifrit Case". WBAL-TV . April 10, 2003. Archived from the original on March 15, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  6. 1 2 Barker, Jeff (June 11, 2003). "Erika Sifrit is found guilty in Ocean City double-killing" . The Baltimore Sun . Archived from the original on June 24, 2021. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  7. 1 2 "Erika Sifrit Describes O.C. Tourist Murders". WBAL-TV . September 2, 2004. Retrieved June 1, 2011 via Narkive Newsgroup Archive.
  8. "Double Murder Trial Begins for Erika Sifrit". WBAL-TV . June 3, 2003. Retrieved June 1, 2011.[ permanent dead link ]
  9. Lash, Steve (2010). "B. Sifrit shifts attack on murder conviction from state court in Md". The Daily Record . Retrieved June 1, 2011.[ dead link ]
  10. Augenstein, Neal (April 1, 2012). "Erika Sifrit cites lawyer failure, seeks new trial". WTOP News . Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  11. DispatchAdmin (October 16, 2014). "Fed Judge Denies Erika Sifrit Appeal; Decision Likely Exhausts Challenges". The Dispatch. Ocean City, Maryland . Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  13. Augenstein, Neal (April 29, 2022). "Benjamin Sifrit refused parole in 2002 killing of Fairfax couple in Ocean City". WTOP News . Retrieved April 29, 2022.
  14. Powell, Nancy (July 10, 2009). "Story of infamous '02 resort murder now told in book". Ocean City Today. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved June 1, 2011.